Thursday 7 July 2022

Judge Strikes Down Los Angeles School District’s Vaccine Mandate

 The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) student COVID-19 vaccine mandate was struck down on Tuesday by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that the nation’s second-largest public school system had exceeded its authority by imposing requirements beyond those of the state of California.

The decision did not have an immediate effect, as the proposed mandate had been postponed until July 2023, but the district’s school board was resolute in its defense of the policy. It is unclear if board members intend to appeal the decision.

Let Them Breathe, a California-based organization opposed to vaccine and mask mandates in schools, celebrated the ruling by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff.

“Judge Beckloff’s ruling confirms that individual school districts do not have the authority to impose local vaccination requirements in excess of statewide requirements,” said Arie L. Spangler, a legal representative of the plaintiff. “We are very pleased with the ruling, as it ensures that no child will be forced out of the classroom due to their COVID-19 vaccination status.”

The ruling did not address the school district’s vaccine mandate for district employees, which remains in force. All on-campus school employees within the L.A. Unified School District are fully vaccinated; staffers who refused the COVID vaccine were either fired or received an exemption and an alternate assignment away from school campuses.

Beckloff indicated that he initially believed that the school district’s policy fell short of a mandate since unvaccinated students would be allowed to attend online courses. The content of their education would remain the same, even if the means did not. However, the evidence presented over the course of the case changed his mind. For example, a student identified as D.F., would have been forced out of a magnet program specializing in science and into less specialized online coursework. 

“Thus, while the Resolution is a campus community health and safety measure, it also dictates who may be enrolled and continue to attend particular schools within the district,” the judge explained in his nine-page decision. “If D.F. remains unvaccinated, he will be required to leave his current school with its curriculum and programs to be enrolled in a new school within the district … where it appears his curriculum would be very different than at his current school. Thus, the Resolution is not merely about how education is delivered or who may be physically present on campus as the court previously viewed it. Instead, the Resolution dictates which school the student may attend, and the curriculum he may continue to receive.”

The ruling’s interpretation is at odds with Governor Gavin Newsom (D), whose administration has argued that L.A. Unified had the authority to implement stricter local mandates. The school district also argued that even if it lost, the ruling should apply only to the plaintiff and not students in the district in general.

Judge Beckloff disagreed, stating, “The court finds no justification for such a limitation given the … lack of authority to adopt the Resolution.”

Vaccination rates within LAUSD are very high, and transmission rates are low. According to the district’s superintendent, 78% of students 12 and up have received two doses of the vaccine as of May, and 84% had received at least one dose.

The state of California has expressed considerable interest in its own vaccine mandate for K-12 education: the Legislature currently requires 10 vaccines without personal belief exemptions, but the COVID vaccine is not one of them, and the California Department of Public Health has indicated that it will not be added to that mandatory list until the vaccines have received full approval from the FDA; as of June the Pfizer and Moderna have emergency authorization for use in minors as young as six months old and full approval for adults. Any mandate would not come into effect before July of 2023, in line with the proposed timeline of the LAUSD.

Post a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search